No one is a nobody

So we’ve just helped ourselves to a couple of chocolates from a left-over box of Miniature Heroes when our son walks in. He’s eating an apple, but his attention is caught by the chocolates and he begins at once to plead and beg in a frankly rather undignified manner. Wife points out that he’s got an apple. No, I say, he’s holding out for a Hero. How we laughed. (Well, I did.)

(Left over from Christmas, since you ask. That’s a lot of leaving-over, and I’m personally convinced that the salmonella risk is far from negligible. My wife, on the other hand, is personally convinced that I’ve taken hypochondria to previously unscaled heights of self-absorbed irrationality. It’s a point of view.)

About heroes, anyway. That is, about managerialism, and about dedication and skill at work. (The following was formulated for a workplace IT survey, but I thought I’d give it a wider airing.)

There’s a common misconception that informal technical support (“I just ring Bob and he comes over and sorts me out”) doesn’t work, and that tech support needs to be formally managed and controlled. This can lead on to a greater misconception, that formally-managed tech support can be delivered by people with less outstanding levels of knowledge and dedication than poor old Bob – “if you get the system right you don’t need heroes”.

Actually informal tech support works tremendously well, from the user’s point of view. (Yes, there will be a backlog of unresolved problems and dissatisfied users – but there will be a backlog whatever you do.) That said, the first misconception has an element of truth, inasmuch as informal tech support is a nightmare to manage – but the managers aren’t the ones whose problems need solving.

The second misconception, however, is flat wrong, and dangerous with it. Heroes are precisely what you need: people who know everything, can prioritise six half-finished tasks in their heads and (very important) like talking to users. Tech support is hard – you’ve absolutely got to have the right people doing it. And management doesn’t help. Imposing formal management systems on those people may make their managers’ lives easier, but it won’t get the job done any better – it’s more likely to get in the way.

In technical support, management isn’t a substitute for heroic levels of skill and dedication. Management (from the point of view of the techie being managed) is a necessary evil – and you still need the heroes.

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One Comment

  1. JoeinVegas
    Posted 7 July 2006 at 20:02 | Permalink | Reply

    But you need management, if for nothing than to do the reports and stick up for the troops with complaining departments.

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